By on March 20, 2019

2015 Ford Mustang Flat Rock production

The home of the Ford Mustang will eventually become home to vehicles built atop the automaker’s next-generation electric architecture, the company announced Wednesday. Ford’s plan comes with $900 million in previously announced funding, the vast majority of which is earmarked for the expansion of Michigan’s Flat Rock assembly plant. The rest of the cash goes towards preparations for the next-generation Mustang, which keeps Flat Rock as its home.

Contrary to previous claims, autonomous vehicles will not be among Flat Rock’s future inhabitants, and the same goes for Ford’s upcoming “Mustang inspired” EV crossover.

Once the plant completes its expansion and takes on a second shift, EV models (plural, take note) will pour forth, but not imminently. Ford targets the start of Flat Rock EV production for 2023.

Rather than Flat Rock, autonomous vehicle production will instead take place at “a new AV manufacturing center in southeast Michigan,” Ford stated, where workers will outfit “purpose-built, commercial-grade hybrid vehicles with self-driving technology and unique interiors.” AV production should commence at the unnamed locale in 2021.

Before any of that happens, of course, Ford’s electric performance crossover will roll out of Cuautitlan, Mexico in 2020, giving Blue Oval loyalists a taste of the electromobility Ford CEO Jim Hackett is so keen on.

“We’ve taken a fresh look at the growth rates of electrified vehicles and know we need to protect additional production capacity given our accelerated plans for fully electric vehicles,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of global operations, in a statement.

Some 900 additional jobs are expected to be created by the expansion. Ford also builds the Lincoln Continental at Flat Rock, and today’s announcement contained no mention of the vehicle, further pushing its future into doubt. With its platform mate, the Ford Fusion, kicking the dust by (or in) 2021, we continue to believe the big Lincoln sedan will bow out with it.

While electric vehicle sales rose sharply in the U.S. last year, mainly due to increased production of the Tesla Model 3, the vehicle type remains a tiny sliver of the country’s total sales volume — just over 1 percent. Numerous factors, including primitive public infrastructure, a culture rooted in go-anywhere ethos, and a tax credit limited to 200,000 vehicles per manufacturer, threatens its rate of growth.

Still, Ford, like rival General Motors, sees a future in EVs. As for AVs, Hinrichs showed tempered enthusiasm, mentioning that his company’s plan “allows us to adjust our investment spending to accommodate the pace of growth.”

One last announcement came today — that of the production site of the next-generation Transit Connect van. Currently built in Spain, production will shift to Hermosillo, Mexico in 2021, in keeping with the need to boost “U.S. and Canadian vehicle content consistent with the proposed USMCA trade agreement.”

[Image: Ford]

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17 Comments on “Ford: Battery Electric Vehicles, $900 Million Coming to Flat Rock Assembly...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Autonomous vehicles won’t get far due to liability issues. Anyone claiming Level 4 or 5 autonomy is asking for a host of legal problems, and anyone investing in it is wasting their money.

    Passive driving aids should continue development, however.

    • 0 avatar
      EGSE

      That statement surprised me. No target audience of substance would be fooled by his claim. I’m waiting to see how he tries to unring that bell.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        personally I think it’s just an acknowledgement that AVs are not going to be here as soon as some people think they will. IMO it’s akin to the 80/20 rule, we’re 80% of the way there but the last 20% will take 80% of the *time and effort* to achieve.

  • avatar
    Charliej

    Autonomous vehicles will not do well in the US. They will do well in other countries that are not owned by trial lawyers. It will take time in the US because the trial lawyers will be trolling to see what they can steal.

    • 0 avatar
      EGSE

      At the current state of the art they will not operate well in any country.

      AV technology handles some simple cases with acceptable performance. It’s the corner cases that stymie the systems, and at present most of the traffic scenarios are cases that humans do much better at.

      We talk about V2V communication as if it’s in the future. It’s here now. Drivers are routinely exchanging information with each other as to what their intent is. I view driving on public roads as as everyday example of distributed processing, where autonomous computing nodes all running slightly different programs are lightly coupled to one another to use a shared resource. The results are impressively good given the immense variabilities of the operating environment. We have a very long way to go to duplicate that performance with an autonomous counterpart.

      • 0 avatar
        jatz

        Your last paragraph is a beautifully verbose and jargony description of bumper cars.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        Autonomous vehicles could do well in a police state that doesn’t value human life, like China. Chinese cities already photograph drivers in order to track movements. It would be so much easier if they could just monitor people from inside the car (is it any wonder that Chinese Volvo is aiming cameras at the driver?).

        As far as liability goes, life is cheap in China. It’s cheaper to kill a person with a car then to injure them. Autonomous vehicles may be dangerous, but it’s not like they have a free press to report those kind of stories. Families will get a bit of hush money (a few thousand dollars, at most), and the AVs will roll on.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        “Drivers are routinely exchanging information with each other as to what their intent is.”

        What, you mean like with those turn signals hardly anyone uses?

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      “It will take time in the US because the trial lawyers will be trolling to see what they can steal.”

      Well that and that major airline maker’s autopilot was, you know, flying the airplane into the ground despite the pilot’s objections. But yeah, other than Lawyers and behaving like the HAL 9000 from 2001, it is a great system!

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Isn’t Ford management under big pressure to push up profits? Aren’t they cancelling lots of unprofitable cars and lots of expensive employees to boost profits? Isn’t it strange that they don’t seem to have noticed that no one is making money on EVs? I also haven’t heard anyone making money on autonomous vehicles, so what kind of magic path is Ford following to bump up their stock price?

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      ” Isn’t it strange that they don’t seem to have noticed that no one is making money on EVs”

      Maybe because that’s not a true statement.

      As far as autonomous vehicles go, it’s going to take a long time and a lot of research. There will be money to be made, but it’s still well into the future.

      • 0 avatar
        TimK

        No major car company is building EVs at a profit, golf carts don’t count. In the gauzy, ill-defined “future”, maybe EVs can be made in volumes that will show a profit and positive ROI.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          @timk: They can and are being built at a profit. Return on investment takes time, but that’s what happens with any new technology.

          If you’re so sure, show us some numbers. What is the current cost of a 2170 cell at Tesla? How much do the motors cost to make? You act as though you think you have real information so let’s hear it.

          • 0 avatar
            jatz

            @mcs

            Since you’ve provided no “real information” to prove profitability I suspect you’re bluffing.

            Gonna be someone here who can call you on it.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            Tesla turned a profit for one quarter.

            that’s all the evidence you should need.

            /s

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Two completely random unrelated observations:

    – About 3.5 years elapsed from U.S. entry into WWII until VE Day

    – In 2019, Ford targets the *start* of Flat Rock EV production for 2023


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